With burgeoning COVID-19 cases being reported in the forests and hamlets of Gadchiroli, Vidarbha, naxals have urged the administration to immediately stop patrolling. Police sources admitted that this was the first time that naxals made their appeal known by distributing leaflets in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus amongst the local tribal population.
Sources told the Free Press Journal, “This is quite unprecedented that naxals have dropped leaflets and appealed to the police and forest department personnel to discontinue patrolling in the forest. Leaflets were found at Patanil Fork, three kilometres away from Allapalli town.” The appeal comes at a time when Gadchiroli, which in the beginning was in the green zone without any COVID-19 cases, is witnessing a surge. Its count has now soared to 1,538 cases with eight deaths.
Naxals have claimed that the police on patrolling duty are spreading the virus in these areas. They have also pointed out that the infection is affecting the tribal population, as villages are reporting a rise in the number of cases.
Sources said that naxals have argued that there are no treatment facilities available for the villagers. With the leaflets, they have blamed the state government and the district administration for not doing enough to strengthen the health and education infrastructure by opening hospitals and schools in these villages. Instead, they claimed that the government was busy recruiting police and security personnel to fight against them.
Naxals have warned the forest department employees to stop arbitrariness in the forest. The forest produce belongs to the people and they would have first right to use it. They have also warned that if the forest department personnel did not stop the atrocities on the tribal population, they would have to pay for it.